If there’s anything millennials have proven with ease, it’s the fact that they’re in no way anything like the previous set of generations when it comes to making money. Baby Boomers and those under the preceding generation, Generation X, had completely different approaches to making money. They had their careers in the core of their hearts and followed it through to the end. For the most of them, that is. The millennials, however, are a lot more radical. They’re not waiting to build careers or grow into their future billions. Rather, they make the craziest of moves, juggle as many things as they can, and they follow routes that sometimes seem a little lackadaisical. The millennials are the entrepreneurs. In their minds and spirits, they see the world as a big lazy cow that’s for the milking and they treat it that way. However, largely because of these folks, entrepreneurship has become impossibly glamorised.
“You’re an entrepreneur. He’s an entrepreneur. She’s an entrepreneur. Everybody’s an entrepreneur!”
I left the university about three years ago, and since then, I have been amazed at how few the career followers are. The majority pursue their dreams of leading empires, follow their passion, or just think of businesses to do by the side so as to ease into the landfill that has now become the entrepreneurship market. Why help somebody build his or her dreams when you can build yours, right? Thanks to digital technology, it is even easier to milk the proverbial cow. Everybody has a blog, or at least a social media account that is most often than not, a business one. Being a millennial myself, I can’t exactly fight the force. While it does seem like a proactive approach to living, entrepreneurship is starting to look ideal – much finer than it really is. Not all that glitters is gold. In the case of entrepreneurship, nothing really glitters. Peradventure you’re an African, then you have a shit load of odds lined up against you.
In a continent where power is a fantasy, infrastructures are really not in place, and capital is not just lying around in a vault; we still find out that our biggest challenges have nothing to do with these apparent deferrers. Rather, the real issues that plague us lie in the hearts and minds of almost every one of us. I just recently finished reading Tested by Alpesh Patel, and I had a glimpse into how messed up the system is for Africans to grow businesses and brands right out of Africa. Start-up capital is the least of your problems when the truth is that you cannot guarantee your market no matter how theoretically solid data shows. With the billions of people in Africa, you still cannot assume that your business will thrive because the need is high. This is because even Africans prefer to support western businesses. The usual narrative is that sentiment isn’t a good reason to settle for second best. However, the truth is that we are simply living out the system that we have been bred in.
Governmental policies would favour western businesses long before they reach you on the bottom of the pile (if you know somebody, it’s much faster.) Contracts are awarded to existing billionaires or, again, foreign businesses that leach unto the system with ease. Where trust is a major concern, the entrepreneur’s natural state of mind is defensive and a little too careful. Yes, brands would always be given awards publicly, but all of it is deeply rooted in the same window dressing methodology that the game is today. Even beyond all of this, unhealthy competition looms in every corner. Everybody wants to be the local champion – or at least look like it. We’re too busy fighting amongst ourselves instead of learning to co-exist and to build together. Unemployment is a major issue as well, and instead of entrepreneurship to be the answer by creating jobs for those who need to have a little money before joining the entrepreneurship bandwagon, it has become part of the problem. ‘I can’t get a job so I’ll become an entrepreneur instead.’
Alas, we have people starting entrepreneurship for the wrong reasons; still competing, and ensuring that nobody really makes it. ‘No time to join forces; synergy is for suckers. The white people stuff has a better name so we’ll use that instead. African companies cannot be trusted in terms of quality.’ We are then plagued with more issues than the average entrepreneur. The usual things like resilience in character or proper planning that would have been the solutions to problems faced by entrepreneurs in other parts of the world, do not hold water here because the system is indeed messed up. There are really no guarantees. So, when I see my friends go ahead to register companies and grow Instagram followers so as to put their businesses out there, it’s mixed feelings all the way. Great idea; very creative. But, does it have the power to sustain itself till the end? Is the entrepreneur ready to beat all odds and fight all wars that he or she is bound to face a few months or years down the line? Somebody recently told me that Africans are hustlers. The truth is, hustling isn’t half of what it takes to build a business – especially when your business is cooking up in the African pot.